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Gov. Rick Scott's net worth grows to $147 million

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's personal net worth ballooned in the past year to nearly $147 million, an increase of 11 percent and nearly twice what it was two years ago.

The richest governor in Florida history reported his bigger bottom line on an annual financial disclosure statement with the state Commission on Ethics that become public Wednesday.

Thanks to a vast portfolio of investments and extensive sales of stock in a bull market, Scott's year-to-year net worth grew by more than $14 million in 2014, but exactly how remained a secret, because Scott places his assets in a blind trust.

Scott, who spent more than $73 million of his fortune in his first race for governor in 2010 and $13 million more last fall, is the only elected official to use a state law that allows assets to be placed in trust, which is shielded from public view and managed by an independent trustee.

He said he did so to avoid potential conflicts of interest, such as casting votes that could affect the value of a held stock. The Commission on Ethics has twice ruled in favor of Scott's blind trust.

A lawsuit challenging the 2013 blind trust law was thrown out in February by a state appeals court, which ruled that plaintiff Jim Apthorp lacked legal standing to sue. The Florida Supreme Court declined to hear Apthorp's appeal.

Apthorp was chief of staff to the late Gov. Reubin Askew, who led a statewide petition drive in 1976 to change Florida's Constitution to require elected officials to annually make a "full and public disclosure" of their personal finances as a safeguard against conflicts.

"That standard is not being met," Apthorp said Wednesday. "But nobody has ruled on the substance at this point."

Scott's disclosure statement placed the value of the Governor Richard L. Scott 2014 Qualified Blind Trust at $127.8 million. The statement does not include a list of all assets in the trust, and the value of each, as last year's disclosure did.

Many investments disclosed a year ago were held by Scott, along with some in the name of his wife, first lady Ann Scott. They included holdings in limited partnerships, energy firms and stock of Fortune 500 companies, some of which lobby the executive branch in Tallahassee, including Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft and Mosaic, a phosphate company.

Florida Bulldog, an online investigative reporting website, has tracked Scott's stock sales through filings with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. The website reported that in early 2014, Scott's trust sold 350,000 shares of stock in Argan Inc., a holding company, for $10.8 million.

Scott listed no debt and reported that his Naples home has a value of $15.4 million. He also owns a vacation home on 60 acres in Montana with a value of $1.5 million and a boathouse in Naples worth $100,000.

Scott has declined requests by the Times/Herald to disclose his most recent federal income tax return.

Scott's net worth has fluctuated wildly since 2010, when he emerged from obscurity to win the governor's office in a campaign he largely personally subsidized.

In June 2010, he listed a net worth of $218 million. It sank to $103 million by the end of that year, and to $83 million at the end of 2011. It remained at $84 million at the end of 2012 before rebounding to $132 million by the close of 2013.

Scott has used his personal wealth to save taxpayers' money. He is the first governor of Florida to travel in a personal jet at personal expense and has accepted no salary since taking office.

State law requires many elected officials to disclose all assets and liabilities worth more than $1,000 by July 1 for the previous calendar year. The forms can be viewed online at public.ethics.state.fl.us.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera's net worth was $6.1 million, more than half of which comes from his share of Cantelop Properties, a Coral Gables company.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the wealthiest of the three elected statewide Cabinet members, reported his net worth to be $8.3 million. That includes 20 percent ownership of Putnam Groves in Bartow, worth $3 million, which also produced $301,000 in income in addition to his state salary.

Attorney General Pam Bondi listed a net worth of $1.4 million. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater's statement was not yet online as of late Wednesday.

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263. Follow @stevebousquet.

Gov. Rick Scott's net worth grows to $147 million 07/01/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 1, 2015 10:18pm]
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